My column this month is more of a personal note – a departure from the normal political/ government topics I focus on in this space, which means that I do not have to wade through the monthly e-mails and letters from my critics (some of whom have yet to learn to turn off their all-CAPS key when venting). I welcome you to “bring it on” next month.
This month's narrative was prompted by John Percival, a Birmingham resident who stopped by our offices in mid-May of this year to discuss a hot local issue (the possible narrowing of West Maple Road) that was on everyone's radar. It was not the first time he had been to the offices of Downtown Publications.
On this visit, however, John also inquired about the cost of advertising for a tribute to his 15-year-old dog, Katie, a Jack Russell Terrier who had just passed – certainly a loving gesture.
Just prior to this issue going to press, John contacted me by e-mail. He had also lost his 12-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Macey, and wanted to run another ad marking the passing of this friend, which you will find on page 117 of this issue. John gave me permission to share his loss with our readers, responding that “they both LOVED to be involved in anything. Everything. Including some things they shouldn't have! So, for them to participate would/will delight them.”
I can identify with John's situation because we suffered the loss of our Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Sasha, just before the Fourth of July holiday this summer, which is why this will be the last issue you will see her in the picture with me that runs each month with this column.
In some respects, I considered Sasha one of the founding members of this publishing group, which maintains a dog-friendly office. Up until the most recent Christmas holiday period, when her personal health started to decline and I could no longer carry her up the two dozen steps into our second floor offices above Astrein's Jewelry in downtown Birmingham, Sasha came to work with me each day, something she had done at a previous publishing group for a couple of years before I launched Downtown Publications.
Technically, as many dog owners can relate, Sasha was the pet/best friend of our two sons, starting about 15 years ago when we agreed to buy her from a breeder in Port Huron on the condition the boys would assume all duties related to house training her when she was a puppy – an agreement I reminded myself of each morning at 1-2 a.m. during the first winter when I – alone – would take their dog out when nature called while everyone else slept.
Sasha was an iconic figure of sorts in the Birmingham area. If there was a month I failed to run a picture of her with me at some familiar local spot, or I did not bring her to the office on a given day, I would receive e-mails or be stopped on the streets of Birmingham by inquiring local residents or business people who assumed something had happened to my best friend.
She was certainly known in the downtown area, where she mastered which retail businesses had a steady supply of treats, her favorites being at Suhm-thing, thanks to Jackie Kreger Assaf; or Shades Optical where Dr. Bill's right-hand person, Marcia Polselli, always made time to satisfy Sasha's cravings.
We had our favorite routines in Birmingham – early Sunday morning or late night walks through Booth Park (no, the groups of teenagers in the park did not bother her; she actually relished their attention); movie nights at the park; our one-mile walking route through the neighborhoods and downtown area during the evening hours after the stores had closed; or our occasional lunch at the Brooklyn Pizza outdoor tables (wood-fired crust was her favorite). And, as Cranbrook Kingswood graduate George Post recently noted on my youngest son's Facebook page, Sasha was the “biggest CK (lacrosse) cheerleader and always ready to give out kisses.”
But Sasha was not always a “city” dog, so to speak. Until a few years ago we maintained a home on White Lake in the west Oakland lakes area, so she was a country dog who loved the water, so much in fact that she would charge through and take the hit from the electric fence on the hillside and race down the winding 30-step staircase to the lake and wade or jump in. She was also known to jump off our anchored boat in the middle of the lake and swim to shore if she recognized a visitor on our beach area. Just one of the many humorous memories we all shared when our boys came home from Manhattan to visit her just prior to her passing.
So this is a notation of our loss of Sasha and a celebration of the years during which she led a good life and brought so much joy, love and loyal attention to the members of our family.